Travelers Face Disruption at UK Airports

Britain's flight schedules slowly returned to normal Friday, a day after fears of a major terrorist plot to blow up U.S.-bound planes caused massive disruptions.

A number of long-haul flights were canceled or delayed Friday, though many shorter flights resumed from Heathrow and other British airports, aviation officials said.

"The airport has returned to normal business," said Tony Douglas, the British Airports Authority official in charge of Heathrow, Europe's busiest airport. He said there were still delays, but most airlines were hoping to operate full schedules.

Transport Secretary Douglas Alexander reassured frustrated passengers that "the heightened level of security will last only as long as the situation demands, and is kept under constant review."

Airports canceled hundreds of flights Thursday after police said they foiled a plot to blow up as many as 10 jets. Airlines banned passengers from carrying hand luggage after reports that terrorists were planning to use common electronic devices to detonate liquid explosives concealed in sports drink bottles.

A spokeswoman for Heathrow said around 70 percent of flights were running, lines were shrinking and the situation was much calmer.

Earlier, many passengers turned around and headed home after an early morning announcement that a raft of flights had been canceled, including British Airways services to San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Most of Heathrow's inbound flights were arriving on time, but flights from the United States - which increased security measures in the wake of the threat - were heavily delayed.

In Paris, two airport security unions maintained their call for a strike over a wage dispute Friday, a day after France introduced stricter security at airports and train stations. A third union called off the strike because of the terrorist threat, and a spokesman for Aeroports de Paris, which operates the airports, said few workers were participating in the walkout.

France has announced searches of all hand luggage on flights heading to the U.S., Britain and Israel, and Air France said it would ban all liquid products from carry-on baggage on flights to the U.S.

At London's Paddington rail station, the start of the line for express trains to Heathrow, police with dogs trained to find explosives patrolled the platforms.

"I quite understand all the checks. I know why they have got to do it," said Elaine Loman, who hoped to catch a flight from Heathrow to Barcelona, Spain.

At London's Stansted Airport, staff said they had canceled 59 flights on budget carriers easyJet and Ryanair. But many flights operated as scheduled, clearing the airport of some of the hundreds of passengers who spent the night there.

At Gatwick, southeast of London, where 44 flights were canceled early Friday, officials were hopeful that normal schedules would resume during the day.

Staff at Manchester Airport said most flights were operating as usual, though flights on Continental, PIA, and Delta Airlines to New York, and US Airways flights to Philadelphia were delayed.


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